September 11, 2001
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Amherst College > News & Events > Terrorist Attacks > Message from Tom Gerety, Oct. 16

To The Amherst Community

Tom Gerety
October 16, 2001

Recent events nationally and locally have prompted many members of the community to inquire about the College's emergency procedures. Indeed, as you may have read in yesterday's Daily Hampshire Gazette, one of our own faculty members expressed concern about a suspicious package he received in the U.S. mail; this item was forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, who tested it and found no evidence of hazardous substances. Although we have absolutely no reason to believe that the College or any of our faculty, students or staff are at particular or immediate risk, this seems like an opportune time to remind everyone of the national alert regarding mail, and of the particular emergency procedures that should be followed here on campus.

First, the Attorney General has cautioned everyone to be cautious of "suspicious packages," which include unexpected or unsolicited letters or packages that are bulky, odd-sized, wrapped with excessive amounts of tape, or either lacking a return address or showing one that you do not recognize. If you receive a letter or package that concerns you, please contact Campus Police (ext. 2291) immediately, before opening the package, so that they can isolate the item and follow up as appropriate.

In addition, federal authorities recently have offered information about what to do about mail containing chemical or potentially biohazardous substances. If you open a letter or package containing an unknown substance, don't panic; cover the mail (or, if possible, place it in a sealed container), secure the area, and wash your hands, then contact Campus Police immediately. Campus Police will isolate the material and contact appropriate legal and health authorities.

The Centers for Disease Control Website offers thorough and helpful information about how to respond to anthrax and other biological threats at

Like doctors across the country, Health Services staff here on campus and at area medical facilities are on alert to identify unusual patterns of illness and are prepared to sound an early alarm in case of suspected or threatened attack. As you may know, public health authorities support use of antibiotics only in those cases in which there is definitive evidence of exposure to infection. The College's Health Services are supporting these instructions.

In the event of a broader regional or national emergency, the College will of course coordinate with local, state and national resources to ensure the safety of the Amherst community. If you have particular concerns, please don't hesitate to call on Campus Police or Health Services staff, as well as the other resources available through the Dean of Students Office, the Counseling Center, and elsewhere on campus.